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Letters to Cyclingnews April 26, 2001
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After Tuesday's mail epic, a return to coffee-break quantities of mail today, but inevitably the Paris-Roubaix dominates discussion. Nathan Vandenbroek thinks Domo's performance was a classic example of how to race as a team, while Fraser Kennedy doesn't believe any US team is capable of winning the toughest Classics because of the team sacrifice required. James Lemken also believes Domo are above reproach for their tactics (and it has to be said almost all our correspondents have agreed with that sentiment), and Conrad Castaneda tackles all the issues arising from Paris-Roubaix in one go.
More letters also from people who think George Hincapie is very well served as US Postal, and should stay put. Douglas Duguay thinks Postal is building its strength for the Classics, and Brad Burroughs agrees the Classics riders on the team should be better supported.
On the broader subject of the Classics in general, Morgan L has a dream team for the early season that doesn't include any current Domo, Mapei or Fassa Bartolo riders and Douglas Reynolds thinks Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Oscar Camenzind deserves more credit than he gets.
With Tour de France wildcard selection approaching, the notion that CSC-World Online has already been selected by the Tour organisers amazes Tom Atherholt. It's true that CSC has not been strong this season, but their team leader Laurent Jalabert did sustain an injury that put him out of action till a couple of weeks ago. If CSC has been selected, it's clearly on the strength of Jalabert's historical performances not on the last few months. On the other hand, it's looking unlikely that Marco Pantani's Mercatone-Uno team will be invited to the Tour, and Michael Marine thinks Pantani's directeur sportif Giuseppi Martinelli is out of line to be complaining about this.
Rounding up, Mark Combs has a diffferent perspective on the question of who suffers most in sports, Morten Doeviken has some answers on ONCE's time trial bikes, as requested last time by Robert Reed and Andrew Salmon thinks the two couriers who are riding across Asia on track bikes are mad. We agree, but as Prince Charles once said about polar expeditionist Sir Ranulph Fiennes, they're "refreshingly mad."
I read the comments about Domo's "lame performance". I have to differ. It was superb. It was a textbook case study in how to race as a cycling team.
Too many Americans treat cycling as an individual sport. It is a team sport and Domo proved that using, not "cheap", but legitimate and well executed team tactics. The strongest team took the day which is at it should be. Else why are there teams at all?
Postal will never know how to win Roubaix because they're not prepared to suffer selflessly for the better of the team. Lefevre's lesson to us all in recent years is how he gets his riders to eliminate the threat of the other teams before they start thinking about their own positions.
Poor George had a puncture on the exit of Arenberg. How many times did Museeuw puncture and still made it back to take second place?
Yes, Knaven was the winner, but the biggest story must be Museeuw's comeback. Twice now he's suffered career-threatening injury and still made it back to the top.
It's not in the psyche of American sportsmen to put the team before the individual and therefore you will never see a predominantly US team win a race like Paris-Roubaix, Flanders or Fleche until they understand this fundamental aspect of pro cycle racing.
Why criticize Domo (the fourth or fifth ranked team in the world) for a good performance? Did they not deserve to win? Did they somehow cheat? George Hincapie is a very strong rider, but really only a first-rate domestique. You should better appreciate his role. Domo ran a superb, textbook race; Hincapie never really had a chance. Museeuw flatted over twice as much as George did, and was not privilege to the super fast wheel changes that the Postal rider had. Johan still persevered. It is important to recognize those teams who have depth and breath, rather then circling the wagons around a team that is built for one race with one rider. Remember, several riders were stronger then George Hincapie on that rainy day in the Roubaix velodrome.
It would have been nice to see an American win Paris-Roubaix. Greg LeMond loved that race and came close once or twice but even he didn't do it. You have to have luck as well as form to win that race. George has just been a little unlucky in these races. That's how racing goes. Would Hincapie or Dierckxsens have won had it not been for the super strong Domo clan? Maybe, or maybe not. George had good form but if the race had come down to just him and Museeuw alone I think Museeuw would have got it. Did the Domo tactics at the end (they displayed standard team tactics by the way) take away from a dramatic race? Yes. But if had it been some American super-team shutting down everything at the end I doubt any of you would have complained.
Georgie switching teams? No way. He is at home with his buddies and likes being on an American team. If George had won a few other races in these past few years then perhaps he would have left for a Classics-oriented team long ago. Frankly, though George is a good super-domestique and one day rider he is still one or two per cent from the level of Museeuw, Bartoli, Jalabert (of the past), and other winning Classic riders. Guys like Museeuw or Bartoli can sometimes still manage to win even if their team is nowhere to be found in the final kilometers of a race, because they can ride everyone off their wheel. Now that is the mark of a true Classics champion.
Some of you make it sound like US Postal is some peewee team with a small budget that can only afford to put everything on the Tour and not the Classics so they get bullied by the bad guys at Domo. If US Postal really wanted to be more competitive in the Classics they would. US Postal is a quality big budget team built around Lance for winning the Tour. Period. Only the Tour de France matters to Americans and American sponsors. When it comes to cycling here in the USA all we hear about is the Tour de France. Did things change after LeMond was winning the Tour way back when? No, and I doubt they will even if Lance does a triple.
Even super-teams like Domo and Mapei have to compromise. What has Mapei done in the big Tours in the last few years? Nothing. They are Classics-oriented teams. Mapei tried (and still is trying) to put together a super Tour team but they haven't been able to, despite having the biggest team budget. I doubt you will see Domo or Mapei do much in terms of GC in the tour. The Belgians and French LOVE the Classics and that's why they dig deep down to ride in those miserable conditions. Those riders rode those cobbles as juniors. Little old Belgian and French ladies will think nothing of standing out in the cold rain to cheer on their heroes. Americans could care less. I know cycling is one of the most dramatic and hardest sports there is in the world, but Americans still don't get it and probably never will. Instead they put redneck stock car racing and golf on the TV here. That really sucks.
Come on! hiring Matt White is not supporting George? How about the support of Ekimov? Van De Velde?
George finally broke his "duck" at G-W. I think that was all he needs to inspire himself and his team-mates. Winning Classics is not an easy business. Tchmil and Museeuw won only one Classic each last season, yet they are considered dangerous in every Classic.
Johan had not won Paris-Roubaix when he was George's current age. Give Postal a little bit of time. When it comes all of this talk will be forgotten and we can all begin to marvel at what a well-rounded team they have become!
Douglas A Duguay
Sure! Get Hincapie and the great Ekimov some additional supporting riders and help them win some Classics.
Mapei adjusts their roster to fit the racing. Postal could and should do the same if they are going to support the proven abilities of these two great riders. Ekimov may be older, but he is just as much a threat as Hincapie in the Classics. See Flanders last year ?
What about a new Classics dream-team to compete with the Domo-nation (previously Mapei domination). No Domo/Mapei/Fassa Bartolo riders in this one:
It would make division one easily...
Reading about Oscar Camenzind's victory in L-B-L, the purist's Classic, I began to wonder why it is that the Swiss rider does not seem to get the respect it seems he deserves. After all, he has won the equivalent of three Classics in the last three years, figuring that the World's is worth one Classic, as well as the Tour of Switzerland. How many riders can claim that kind of success in their careers, let alone in the span of just a few years? Any thoughts? And congrats to Oscar for a race well deserved.
If Lotto, Saeco, CSC, Euskatel, Mercury-Viatel, Mercatone-Uno, Coast, and Alessio, had to be ranked according to their overall performance so far this year, first place would go to either Alessio or Lotto. CSC-World Online would come in next-to-last just ahead of Coast. I know that a lot more than year-to-date performance comes in to play in selection for the Tour de France, but CSC's performance has not been worthy of Tour selection. They have had only about six podium finishes this year and only one of those was a win, back in February. For comparison, Alessio has had about 25 podium finishes this year, including seven this month and 15 of these were first place finishes. Plus, Alessio had two multiple stage race wins, Ferrigato in the Volta ao Algarve in February and Ivanov in the Settimana Coppi-Bartoli in March. What have they been drinking at the Berlingske Tidende or is "the fix" already in?
Recent comments by the directeur sportif of the Mercatone-Uno squad, Giuseppi Martinelli have caused me to wonder whether Mr Martinelli should consider looking for another line of work, along with Marco Pantani. Such comments as "it is impossible not to consider inviting Pantani to the Tour de France, the symbol of cycling". If I'm not mistaken, Mercatone Uno has many other highly successful riders with potent capabilities, a perfect example being Stefano Garzelli. Comments such as this will not sit well with other members of the team, without whom "elefantino" would not be nearly as successful.
Speaking of Pantani, it appears that he is focusing his training for being on form for the Giro d'Italia, and has said that this is his priority for this season. If this is indeed the case, why then would the Societe Du Tour wish to include a team whose highest profile member has such a controversial past? This would do little to clear up the tarnish that remains from 1998. Unfortunately for the remaining members of the team, they must ride in this shadow.
Could this Giro focus be the result of a fear of the challenge of both Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong? Pantani has made comments suggesting that Lance needs to be taught a lesson. Both Jan and Lance appear to be on track for an epic Tour de France, while Marco abandons time and time again. I'm no pro cyclist, but I do know that to attain proper form requires suffering, suffering that Marco Pantani does not seem willing to endure.
It is my opinion that Marco Pantani should take off whatever time is necessary to solve his personal and professional difficulties, and return to cycling without the obvious distractions that detract from his considerable talent. An on form Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, and Marco Pantani would make for a classic Tour de France. Almost like watching Hinault, Merckx, and Indurain go at it. OK, not quite, but close!
Michael S. Marine
This is an excellent question, but I wish to change the focus just a bit and offer a parallel. The people who suffer the most are the folks who really believe that there is a quicker material and blow three grand on a bike to prove it.
The people who suffer the least are boxers. There is no mystery as to the outcome of a boxing event. Someone gets beaten up. I admire boxing fans for their ability to understand this.
Anything else would be the equivalent of leaving the red light district and "not feeling loved". What the hell do you expect?
The ONCE Giant TT frame weighs 1.3kg, and costs around 650 pounds sterling. As far as I know, they are equipped with Campagnolo Record, Campy Ghibli disk back wheel and Campy Bora front wheel. I think the bars are Cinellis Angel (I'm not sure on that).
I liked your interview with Mo and Dustin. I used to think I was a little crazy to ride a couple of miles from the railway station to the velodrome in Reading through the center of town on my track bike, so these guys must be stark raving mad. I'm tempted to organise a whip-round in the office to get Mortimer some brakes.
The last month's letters